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Hispaniolan Oriole

Icterus dominicensis

The Hispaniolan oriole, Icterus dominicensis, is a strikingly plumaged bird endemic to the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. This species exhibits a predominantly black and yellow coloration, with the absence of white wing markings, setting it apart from many of its relatives.

Identification Tips

Adult Hispaniolan orioles are characterized by their black bodies with vivid yellow patches on the shoulders, rump, and under-tail coverts, extending to the lower breast. Both sexes share a similar appearance, which is typical among tropical orioles. Juveniles display olive upper parts and dull yellow underparts, with black wings and sometimes a black or reddish-brown throat. The species can be distinguished from the similar yellow-shouldered blackbird by the absence of yellow shoulder patches. Adult males typically weigh 35-38 grams, while females range from 33-40 grams, and the average length is 20-22 centimeters.

Habitat

The Hispaniolan oriole inhabits a variety of environments on Hispaniola, including tropical and subtropical forests, forest edges, woodlands, and gardens, from coastal areas to mid-mountain elevations. They show a preference for areas with palm fronds, which are utilized for nesting, and are also found in shaded coffee plantations.

Distribution

This species is a year-round resident of Hispaniola, which comprises the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and can also be found on the neighboring islands of Gonâve, Saona, and Tortuga.

Behaviour

Hispaniolan orioles are adept foragers, often seen hanging upside-down to access food sources on the undersides of leaves. They are active in dense vegetation, searching for fruits, insects, flowers, and nectar.

Song & Calls

The call of the Hispaniolan oriole is a sharp "keck" or "check." Its song, a series of high-pitched whistles, is infrequently heard, typically after dawn, and is seldom vocalized during the day.

Breeding

The breeding season for the Hispaniolan oriole spans from March to June, though breeding can occur irregularly throughout the year. Their nests are finely woven hanging baskets made from plant fibers, often situated on the underside of banana trees or palm fronds. The eggs are white with a pale blue tint and dark brown spots, with clutches averaging three eggs. Fledglings undergo a pre-basic molt once they gain independence.

Similar Species

The yellow-shouldered blackbird (Agelaius xanthomus) is often mistaken for the Hispaniolan oriole due to its similar size and yellow patches, but it can be differentiated by the presence of yellow only on the shoulders.

Diet and Feeding

Hispaniolan orioles consume a diet of fruits, insects, flowers, and nectar, with a particular fondness for the nectar of the Erythrina plant. Their foraging behavior includes acrobatic feats such as hanging upside-down to reach food.

Conservation status

The IUCN Red List categorizes the Hispaniolan oriole as "Least Concern." While there have been no comprehensive population assessments, the species is frequently observed across Hispaniola. However, there is concern over potential population declines due to brood parasitism by the invasive shiny cowbird, which has been deemed a high-quality host for the cowbird on the island.

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